As the Ondo governorship election hots up…6

One of the unwritten rules of the presidential system that this country has operated since 1999 is that an incumbent (executive) is usually given the right of first refusal; if he seeks re-election, then, his party concedes and allows him to fly the party flag again. Note that I said “usually,” not only because this is an unwritten rule or law but also because to every rule, there is an exception. In the United States of America whose presidential system we appeared to have dubbed, just like Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila was alleged to have dubbed Singapore’s coronavirus vaccine bill, it first happened in 1852 that a sitting president, democrat Franklin Pierce, the 14th United States (US) president, was denied his party’s nomination for second term basically for his pro-Southern (meaning pro-slavery) sentiments.

Four other sitting US presidents had similarly been denied: John Tyler (Whig or Conservative) in 1844, who was not in right standing with the party; Millard Fillmore (Whig or Conservative) in 1852; Andrew Johnson (Democrat) in 1868 and Chester Arthur (Republican or Conservative) in 1884. Bad policies which alienated party and people; disagreement with the party or, like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said of erstwhile Lagos governor, Akinwunmi Ambode: Being an excellent governor but bad politician and irreconcilable differences that scattered the party – were reasons these incumbents failed to get the nod for second term.

Different strokes for different folks: Theodore Roosevelt (1908) was an incumbent who chose not to run for second term. However, he changed his mind in 1912 and ran against his successor, William Howard Taft, but lost. President Calvin Coolidge had the opportunity to run – and win – but chose not to run with his famous “I do not choose to run for president in 1928.” Time and space will not permit us to list sitting governors who chose not to run again or were denied by their party.

On the African continent, one example is Nelson Mandela, the first black president of independent South Africa, who insisted on serving just one term. The usual practice is for incumbents to desire second term. Indeed, Africa and many other developing countries are replete with examples of incumbents engaging in all manner of shenanigans, including subverting the constitution and throwing their country into war to perpetuate themselves in office.

The 1999 Constitution (as amended) allows an incumbent a second term in office – and this has usually always been the case. However, we have exceptions of Ayo Fayose and Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti, both of whom returned later to complete their second term. In Lagos, the All Progressives Congress (APC) denied Ambode the opportunity for a second term. The do-or-die for the ticket of the same APC in Edo and Ondo, where elections are due in a few months, is also instructive.

Will Ondo’s Governor Rotimi Akeredolu snatch his party’s nomination or will he, if denied, move to another party to realise his ambition? Few months ago, it was so clear the governor was not in the good books of his party. At a point, he was even suspended for anti-party activities. A formidable opposition in the name of Unity Forum or Unity Group then emerged, which everyone thought would pull the rug from under Akeredolu’s feet. But how time changes! Akeredolu appears to have mended fences with party leaders at the national level, who are now being careful not to fight on two war fronts at the same time. Rapprochement is also said to be ongoing at the state level between Akeredolu and some estranged party leaders.

APC is not as strong and acceptable as it used to be. The party’s performance at the national level is abject, and this has rubbed in at state level. The dirty linen party leaders are laundering openly in Edo is appalling. The party, some watchers say, is wary of travelling a similar path in Ondo. Akeredolu also appeared to have vigorously waved the olive branch at party leaders; he made moves and sent emissaries in many directions. The greatest reprieve gifted Akeredolu, ironically, came from the Unity Forum which scattered at the point of choosing an aspirant to slug it out with the governor for the party ticket. Were they able to put their house in order, party leaders would most likely have tilted towards them, if only to teach Akeredolu a lesson in party discipline. A disunited Unity Forum left Akeredolu off the hook.

So, Akeredolu’s chances of winning his party’s nomination are brighter now than before; except the Unity Forum pulls itself from the brink very quickly. Time, as they say, is of the essence! Amongst the Yoruba, home and abroad, Akeredolu got high marks on his role in the formation of Amotekun; tongues are wagging, however, that he might have since softened his stance on the regional security outfit. On his trip to Abuja to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to flag off the Ore industrial hub, he is said by some to have sold out on Amotekun. But for the fact that he hardly opens his mouth, Akeredolu needs to address that issue and quickly lay to rest the ghost of a sell-out which may haunt him subsequently.

If Akeredolu wins the APC ticket, expect some Unity Forum members to retrace their footsteps back to the governor’s camp while others will jump ship. Since many of them have defected and re-defected time and time again, it will not be difficult for them to land in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), etc. For sure, this will weaken the APC and strengthen the other parties. What good the PDP can make of this remains to be seen because that party itself has its own mad house. Setting self before party and selfish interests above public service is characteristic of politicians everywhere.

If Akeredolu loses the APC ticket and moves elsewhere to contest the election; if he wins the APC ticket and his recalcitrant opponents move to another platform; if the next Ondo governorship election becomes a three-horse race again, we may expect that minority votes will, again, turn in the next governor; in which case, the votes of the two runners-up, if added up, will surpass that of the eventual winner, just as we witnessed in 2012 and 2016.

There is a plethora of aspirants on the platform of the PDP, many of them perennial runners from the Ondo South senatorial district. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, lawyer and former commissioner under former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, was the PDP governorship candidate in the 2016 Ondo governorship election; but his chances were wobbled by the factionalisation of his party. While many defected and somersaulted after the election, Jegede remained in the PDP, helping to build and prepare it for the next election. Until the electorate begins to punish political prostitutes, we go nowhere.

Bode Ayorinde, founder of Achievers University, Owo, has made outstanding contributions to the development of Ondo State. He is from Owo in Ondo North, the senatorial district in the saddle at the moment. While Jegede’s father is Akure, his mother is from Ipele-Owo. Aspirants from the South senatorial district include Sola Ebiseni, John Ola Mafo, and Eddy Olafeso – all of who were my contemporaries at Great Ife. They have been in the politics of appointments and elections for so long.

Ondo stands at the crossroads of making a choice between retaining and jettisoning a zoning formula that has served it well. The Unity Forum members from Owo who are aspiring to the governorship insisted that the zoning formula be maintained – Owolabi Adelami, Dapo Adelegan, Akinola Awodeyi-Akinsehinwa, etc. Hence, they all were ready to give an undertaking to serve only one term of four years (to complete Akeredolu’s tenure). Will they support a Unity Forum aspirant that is not from Owo or will blood be thicker than water?

The National Question is a vexed issue everywhere. Call it ethnicity or tribalism; it is, nonetheless, an issue which, left unresolved, has led to the collapse of great empires and states – USSR, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Sudan, etc. Those who argue against rotation say it works against merit and could shut out the best candidates: Political contests should be a free-for-all in the same manner Chairman Mao Zedong had admonished that we let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thoughts contend. Zoning constricts the people’s right to make informed choices. They have a point – but can we reject zoning at home while demanding it at the national level? Can we ask that the presidency rotate on a pre-determined and definite line but that the governorship should not?

I am very sorry to say this: The Yoruba political class appear to me good at having their cake and eating it. With due respect, they speak from both sides of the mouth. They should make up their mind one way or another or, soon, they will lose credibility and respect – if they have not done so already! If you cheat and oppress others, why will you also not be cheated and oppressed? Whatsoever a man soweth…!  In Ekiti, Fayemi (Ekiti North) leveraged on federal might to outmuscle Ekiti South, which has not produced a governor since 1999. In Osun, Osun West, whose turn it was, was denied the governorship in the most brazen and outrageous manner by Oyetola (Osun Central). In Ogun, the Egba and Ijebu have taken turns to marginalise the Egbado. Now, how can we insist that the North respect the zoning formula we ourselves keep throwing overboard in our dealings with our own people? When we return next week, we draw our inferences, God willing!

 

FEEDBACK

How Ondo became an oil-producing State…

I am YEMI DAPO-AISIDA from Owo. We used to communicate until recently. We have never met but I pray we meet one of these days. I am no longer a fan of Tribune newspapers like I used to be when Tribune was in the forefront of fighting for the Yoruba. Those were the days! I still read Sunday Tribune religiously because of two of you but now mainly because of you. The other person, Diran, used to write on the back page where Yinka Odumakin now writes.

This message is to correct the error in your article of 31st May, 2020 titled “AS  ONDO GOVERNORSHIP   ELECTION  HOTS  UP… 4” Five paragraphs to the end, you said “Ex-Gov. Ajasin’s government  reportedly prepared the blueprint that admitted  Ondo state into the club of oil-producing states” Very sorry, nothing can be far from the truth!

The admission of Ondo state into the oil-producing states was during the era of Olumilua with Segun Agagu as deputy. Agagu wrote the paper for his government to pursue. Remember, Agagu started his working career in Gulf oil, now Chevron. He was a geologist. Olumilua gave him the go-ahead to have a try.

Funso Kupolokun was an Executive Director (Investments) with NNPC at their Kofo Abayomi office. Agagu was no friend of Kupolokun but I was a mutual friend to both of them. I did all the running between Akure, NNPC, and the Federal Ministry of Works at Tafawa Balewa square. The ministry must confirm that there were oil wells in Ondo state. That was the work of the Surveyor-General of the Federation, at that time a retired colonel.

I reserve more details! I have sent this message to set the records straight. Continue the good work! And tell Tribune to go back to the vision of the Founder!

 

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